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Streamlining and Testing RFID Technology 69

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-the-better-to-see-you-with dept.
Multiple readers have written to let us know that an experiment at the upcoming Hackers on Planet Earth (HOPE) conference will use RFID to track the movements of at least 1,500 registrants for the duration of the conference. Those movements will be transmitted onto screens which "show in real-time where people go, with whom they associate, for how long and how often." The system will also be used for games which involve manipulation of the available data. Meanwhile, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a method for testing large quantities of RFID tags, which may serve to greatly speed distribution.
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Streamlining and Testing RFID Technology

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  • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Thursday May 15, 2008 @10:09PM (#23427892) Journal
    privacy, rfid, security, technology (tagging beta)

    For once "tagging beta" is appropriate. B-)
  • dammit (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 15, 2008 @10:13PM (#23427924)
    There goes my plan of hanging out at the bar while my video presentation is running at the booth.
    • Re:dammit (Score:5, Insightful)

      by plover (150551) * on Thursday May 15, 2008 @10:57PM (#23428272) Homepage Journal

      There goes my plan of hanging out at the bar while my video presentation is running at the booth.

      Hardly. I bet HOPE is going to be a circus of people hiding RFID tags on each other, unsuspecting passers-by, luggage carts, equipment crates, laptops, and probably in capsules hidden in hamburger buns in the buffet. I expect very few tags to remain on their originally intended targets.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by MadnessASAP (1052274)
        You mean like a worst case scenario RFID environment? Might be interesting to see if anybody comes up with a system to extract usable info from this.
      • by Macgrrl (762836)

        [nerd alert]

        Years ago at a roleplaying convention I participated in a Babylon 5 game where someone tried to plant a bug on Odo's back without him noticing.

        Odo subsumed the bug and caused it to work it's way down to his hand so he could then inspect it.

        Not particularly enlightening I know - but it was the image I had in my mind when I read the above comment.

        [/nerd alert]

        We now return you to your normal programming.

        • What was Odo doing on B5? Was Garibaldi jealous?
        • by Macthorpe (960048)
          Please turn in your geek/nerd cards immediately.

          In order to have your cards returned to you, you must watch the entirity of Lexx from start to finish without stopping or having your eyes bleed.
        • by Macgrrl (762836)

          Apparently my nubness know no bounds

          Odo was in the DS9 game - Keira uniform in a box somewhere in storage with the latex nose. The Bab5 game was the following year.

          Thinking before typing FTW

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Ihmhi (1206036)

        Well, they could put the tags in a tamper-proof portion of the con badge - behind a sticker or something that shows clearly when it has been removed. I doubt a lot of people would forfeit their convention fee by destroying their badge.

      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        There goes my plan of hanging out at the bar while my video presentation is running at the booth.

        Hardly. I bet HOPE is going to be a circus of people hiding RFID tags on each other, unsuspecting passers-by, luggage carts, equipment crates, laptops, and probably in capsules hidden in hamburger buns in the buffet. I expect very few tags to remain on their originally intended targets.

        I'll be there selling RFID Blocking wallets and passport cases =)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by houghi (78078)
        And that might be the real test. See how much 'bad' information you get. Calculate the falso positives and false negatives. The best place to do this is at HOPE. That way you will know what the worst numbers will be.

        The general public will e much more docile and thus much better tracable.
  • That's EASY... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Thursday May 15, 2008 @10:17PM (#23427956)
    At random intervals, pick a stranger and offer to swap tags. You could even devise rules for doing this in groups...

    Games could be invented involving your favorite randomizers (dice, coins, chicken bones, shots of whisky) to spice up the action. Sounds like fun to me.
    • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Thursday May 15, 2008 @10:51PM (#23428228) Homepage Journal
      Not if they are implanted.

      And are programmed to explode if removed.

  • ...or else the "Those movements will be transmitted onto screens which show in real-time where people go, with whom they associate, for how long and how often" would take the meeting to whole new levels.
  • Billing? (Score:4, Funny)

    by arthurpaliden (939626) on Thursday May 15, 2008 @10:28PM (#23428040)
    Will the results of the number and dureation of these 'meetings' be automatically applied to the persons credit card?
  • Cool (Score:5, Funny)

    by duckInferno (1275100) on Thursday May 15, 2008 @10:49PM (#23428202) Journal
    but will it show everybody's hunger, bladder, entertainment and relationship status bars as well?
  • Disconcerting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lawpoop (604919) on Thursday May 15, 2008 @11:04PM (#23428326) Homepage Journal
    There's nothing that bugs me more with nascent technology than RFID. I don't mind it in products -- it would be great to inventory a warehouse, or, say a refrigerator, in minutes. Theoretically, I wouldn't mind RFIDs in identification cards, if it weren't so darned close to the skin. What really concerns me is RFID implants.

    It reminds me of the tattooing of numbers on Jews during the holocaust, for the Third Reich to track them and 'dispose' of them. I'm not a Christian, but the whole "mark of the beast" stuff raises my hackles. It just seems way too open to abuse for any totalitarian-minded politician. At first it's just for medical records, then it's for routine identification stops... finally, there's some computer screen somewhere in a mountain showing the movement of every American citizen.

    I don't know, I just have a very visceral reaction against the idea of an RFID implant. I have a phobia of needs; that might have something to do with it. If it really came down to the point where you had to have an RFID implant to participate in society, I don't know what I would do. I really don't. I might just drop out at that point, try to live in a cabin somewhere.

    What do other geeks think? Am I being paranoid?
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by duckInferno (1275100)
      Definitely not. The ease of control that implanted RFID tags would give to those in power, is equal to the ease of control that product RFID tags give to you.

      In a perfect society, sure, they'd help find criminals and missing persons. Otherwise, the consequences of misuse (by those with authority as well as those without), however minimal the risk, is simply too much.
      • The ease of control that implanted RFID tags would give to those in power, is equal to the ease of control that product RFID tags give to you.

        Exactly. This technology makes it easy to treate people like objects, to instrumentalize them at the most efficient way possible. In some societies, people at least pretend to value human dignity - exactly that is what is at stake here.

        Not because the technology is "evil" - it's ambevalent like every dual-use technology (starting with knifes). But with every ne

      • "In a perfect society, sure, they'd help find criminals and missing persons."

        In a perfect society there would be no criminals or missing persons.
    • Re:Disconcerting (Score:5, Insightful)

      by plover (150551) * on Thursday May 15, 2008 @11:31PM (#23428534) Homepage Journal
      Are you opposed in every case, or just "forced" implantation? I can think of several scenarios:
      • Required to enter secure room at work - (I believe this is in use in some places today)
      • Optional to enter secure room at work, with the alternative being a time-consuming strong password, a card swipe and a retinal scan
      • Optional as part of criminal home monitoring - either remain in jail or stay at home with an implant kept near the bedside monitor, instead of an ankle bracelet
      • Required to hold a particular job, such as prison guard
      • Voluntary temporary implant to hold credit information while you're partying on nude beaches (I heard some bars in Ibiza have done this, but I don't get out much!)
      • U.S. Army soldier, as an optional replacement for the Common Access Card - they get filled with vaccinations and all kinds of other stuff today, and are essentially treated as paid property of Uncle Sam.
      • As a voluntary part of a lifesaving medical treatment -- perhaps the tag is swallowed and followed through your GI tract, or perhaps it's implanted and used to monitor a medical condition?
      • As a required part of a lifesaving medical treatment, where your only access to obtain treatment is to consent to implanted RFID?
      I'm just wondering what your tolerance is. A similar question is: do you carry a cell phone? They're more trackable than an RFID chip. RFID is still limited to less than about 100 meters under perfect conditions. Or do you have to carry an RFID access card for work? Again, not a big difference in "trackability".

      As far as health, RFID is a low power technology, and active chips emit only a minute fraction of that power. The only real exposure you get is from RFID readers, not RFID chips. And you can't really avoid the readers unless you don't walk through the doors at stores with anti-shoplifting antennas.

      Anyway, I think the Xtian Right would rise up before they'd accept mandatory implants, so you'd probably have some strong allies there.

      • As a required part of a lifesaving medical treatment, where your only access to obtain treatment is to consent to implanted RFID?

        Wouldn't that amount to, ahem, Extortion ?
      • by lawpoop (604919)

        Are you opposed in every case, or just "forced" implantation? I can think of several scenarios...

        You see, the thing is, I'm not really opposed to it at all. What I'm opposed to is its misuse by government. If it were totally and completely voluntary, great. I wouldn't have a problem. The problem is, I see the 'several scenarios' growing to a point where it's mandatory to have a chip from birth, or else you are an 'untouchable'. Sort of like a social security number -- who even knows what its original scope and purpose was? But nowadays, you need one for practically any serious financial transaction. Y

        • by DrLang21 (900992)

          Why would you need an RFID chip for surgery? Why not a regular hospital bracelet? If you need definite identification, you can even get a temporary tattoo from a tattoo gun. If it's done lightly, it comes off in about 30 days.

          Not that I don't entirely agree with most of your points, there's a liability issue with patient identification. Hospitals spend a LOT of money trying to minimize human error when it comes to getting the right treatment to the right patient. The consequences of error can be severe for both the patient's health (long and short term) and the bottom line of a hospital's finances (due to malpractice litigation). As such, I am completely understanding if a hosptital wanted to demand that you had an RFID tag

        • by plover (150551) *
          While they seem like adding fuel to the fire, the technology concerns you raise just aren't that big.

          RFID chips have no power source of their own, and are electrically inert until they're powered up by receiving energy from an external transmitter. Unless you have an actively transmitting RFID reader next to you, your tag won't be able to "modulate your nervous system" or do anything else to you.

          Using them for remote tracking would be hard, as the "ordinary range" is two meters or less, and the "extrao

          • by lawpoop (604919)

            RFID chips have no power source of their own, and are electrically inert until they're powered up by receiving energy from an external transmitter. Unless you have an actively transmitting RFID reader next to you, your tag won't be able to "modulate your nervous system" or do anything else to you.

            Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the external transmitter that activates an RFID chip simply a radio broadcaster? In that case, couldn't a radio or cell phone tower be repurposed, relatively easily, to 'activate' the RFID chips of an entire town?

            Or if you were some law enforcement agency or some governmental authority, couldn't you easily disable anybody with the proper RFID chip nested into their nervous system with the right kind of 'radio gun'? Just walk into a room, press a button, and the target is

      • Re:Disconcerting (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Awptimus Prime (695459) on Friday May 16, 2008 @12:54AM (#23429096)

        U.S. Army soldier, as an optional replacement for the Common Access Card - they get filled with vaccinations and all kinds of other stuff today, and are essentially treated as paid property of Uncle Sam.
        Putting them on military personnel? Not a chance, it would put your guys at an enormous tactical disadvantage when $50 worth of common electronic components could "light them up" from 100m.

        There's probably a few more reasons the government would not be interested in implanting such things in citizens. Cost of operations having to figure out how to install, maintain and monitor everyone. Considering no totalitarian group is doing this now, I think people in current democracies are pretty safe from this.

        As mentioned many times in the thread, there's already many other methods of tracking that's already usable by the government when they are interested in you. Hell, we can't even get a few miles of "electronic fence" to work at the border, I really don't see people handing over money for a project of this scale in my lifetime.

        For the guy who mentions "all but 7 RFID cards are accounted for" in a burning building and firemen go dying, I highly doubt firemen would go running into a burning building because someone might be in there over employee swipe badges. They tend to go on "Hey, Suzie was on the 2nd floor! I think she's still inside! We can't find her!" instead of waiting for the NT admin to run into said burning building, log into a Win2k machine that's off the network and audit who has come and gone from the building since the fire started.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by neuromanc3r (1119631)

        • Required to enter secure room at work - (I believe this is in use in some places today)
        • Optional to enter secure room at work, with the alternative being a time-consuming strong password, a card swipe and a retinal scan
        • Optional as part of criminal home monitoring - either remain in jail or stay at home with an implant kept near the bedside monitor, instead of an ankle bracelet

        Bad ideas. Cloning RFID chips is a no-brainer. And entering secure rooms? Seriously, use a fscking key...

    • Paranoid? I don't think so. Implanted RFID would, at best, solve some non-problems, and inevitably, be misused. Kind of like computer voting machines. To me, the bad outweighs the good.
    • Re:Disconcerting (Score:4, Insightful)

      by NotBornYesterday (1093817) * on Friday May 16, 2008 @12:03AM (#23428772) Journal
      "What do other geeks think? Am I being paranoid?"

      Yes, but unfortunately you're not being paranoid enough.
    • Re:Disconcerting (Score:5, Insightful)

      by zappepcs (820751) on Friday May 16, 2008 @12:07AM (#23428800) Journal
      I agree, and the only place that I've EVER seen where RFID technology on people is appropriate is aboard a Federation starship or space station. Outside of a military situation... well, NATCH! Not worth the effort.

      Think of this in what I like to call the 'failure mode analysis':

      Your company (100-250 people) uses RFID tags. A fire breaks out. All but 7 people's RFID are accounted for. The FD goes in to the burning building to get them ... 2 firemen die. All 7 were in the parking lot watching at the time.

      It's absolutely no good for tracking terrorists.. they won't wear them and you won't have sensors to pick up the individuals that don't have RFID tags. This applies to any building currently in existence.

      You decide to tag everyone in a town of 3700 people for an experiment. After an estimated 430 million dollar installation of equipment, the sum total of what you know will be that people get paid on thursday and go to the bar. Walmart is busy on the weekends, and the guy you found cheating is suing you for illegal disclosure of personal information.

      Now, say you have a valid use for this, such as security in your data center, or so you think. Only people who have embedded chips can access the data center. There is a car crash, one tech dies, two are in hospital. Now your backup system is down over the weekend, and you can't even buy access to the data center. Yes, that might be a stretch, but I did say 'failure mode analysis'.

      Now, if you want to tag your milking cows to keep track of them, make sure they are getting milked, vaccinated, etc. That is useful. If you want to make sure that all the deliveries to your distribution center reach their intended end user space.. that also is good.

      Tagging people has a *VERY* limited use, no matter how cool it might seem. I'm always willing to be proved wrong though.

      At the conference, it might be cool to have anonymous RFID tracking to see what kind of data it would provide, but linking it to an individual would be wrong. If you want to see how the traffic flows through the booths, it would work but then so would cameras and video analysis software... hmmm I'm willing to bet that the video analysis would be much easier to implement, less intrusive, and much more reliable as there would be no swapping of tags, no RF interference issues, no expensive system to install for tracking etc.

      So, somebody tell me what I've gotten wrong here?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by unPlugged-2.0 (947200)
        Wow,

        I can't believe it but I actually agree with someone here. As someone who knows and develops RFID software the probability of fiscally feasible implants is such an afterthought its not even funny.

        Most of implant cases in RFID have been for FUN. Thats right most of them have done it because it's cool or they can start a trend. You know what the same can be said for tattoos, piercings and dying your teeth black (not that I have anything against that)

        Its simply not a good implementation of technology.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Mjec (666932)

          You want to be paranoid then be paranoid about gps enabled cell phones. Those are far better at doing the job.

          Hell, it doesn't even have to be GPS enabled. Whenever your phone is on and in range it's communicating with a cell tower. Telcos keep this information - at least here in Australia. Hell, the tower in question shows up on my itemised bill. Add that to the number of towers in your average urban area, use a bit of basic mathematics and if the government wants to it sure as hell knows where you are every second of the day.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          It is possible to read a passive implanted RFID tag from 100-200' under the right conditions with some new technology i have been looking at.

          locating can be done by phased arrays placed appropriately - GPS is overkill and totally uneccessary.

          time to start being paranoid...
  • http://www.traceencounters.org/ [traceencounters.org]

    ArsElectronica 2004 project to track 900 people at a conference.
  • Wondering how long it will be before there are 1500 tags showing up all with the same ID that point to a record for someone in the database that didn't register...
    • And all the screens go black and have this green text raining down, and the one guy with all the IDs says in a really sinister voice "Mr. Anderson..." Wait, I saw this movie already.
  • Isn't that quite the same as the CCC [wikipedia.org] has done for years now on their conference with Sputnik [openbeacon.org]?

  • Track the Planet (Score:2, Informative)

    i work almost exclusively in RFID tracking & technology and have been doing this stuff for years.

    In the east they let you monitor employees during the day in the factories/facilites so they wear RFID tags and you can watch them just like the material that moves around the buildings.

    know where the breakrooms and bathrooms are? then watch for the tags disappearing out that door and send them a page/text if they are not back withing 5 minutes! the unions would have a field day in the west!

    it does
  • A method of tracking individuals wherever they may be within a building, viewable on a display... hmm, sounds like the Marauder's Map to me.
  • Why would anyone willingly work on such a project???
  • A couple of comments have been made in this thread about RFID tags being identifiable at "up to 100 meters".

    While theoretically possible, from a simple physics standpoint it would take a very large device on the detector end (maybe it could fit in a pickup truck), and it would take a similarly large tag (bigger than implantable size), in order for the tag to be able to receive and re-transmit enough energy to be detected at that range.

    Even RFI keycards today, which are an old and proven technology, ha

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